top of page

Intoxication (IPC)

Updated: May 12

Intoxication (IPC)
Intoxication (IPC)


Secs. 85-86: Act of Drunken Person [Defence of Intoxication]

Sec. 85. Act of a person incapable of judgement by reason of intoxication caused against his will - Nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of intoxication, incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong, or contrary to law: provided that the thing which intoxicated him, was administered without his knowledge or against his will.”

Sec. 86. Offence requiring a particular intent or knowledge committed by one who is intoxicated - In cases where an act done is not an offence unless done with a particular knowledge or intent, a person, who does the act in a state of intoxication shall be liable to be dealt with the act as if he had the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated, unless the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.”


Lunacy is considered a disease and is met with pity, while drunkenness is condemned as a vice. The law holds that voluntary drunkenness does not excuse criminal behaviour, as it is a conscious choice.

However, involuntary drunkenness, caused by force or deception, may exempt a person from liability under Section 85 of the IPC.

Section 86 deals with voluntary drunkenness, stating that it does not excuse criminal actions. If an offence requires specific knowledge or intent, Section 86 presumes only knowledge, not intent, for voluntarily intoxicated individuals.

Involuntary intoxication is an absolute exception, while voluntary intoxication offers limited exceptions under the law.

If an involuntarily intoxicated person is still capable of understanding their actions, they cannot claim the benefit of Section 85.

Test of Drunkenness 

In cases of drunkenness, the test differs from insanity cases. While insanity produced by drunkenness is a defence under Section 84, the test is not whether the accused knew the wrongfulness of their actions or appreciated the nature of their act, as in insanity cases.

Section 85 provides an absolute exception for involuntary intoxication, resembling Section 84 for unsoundness of mind.

However, intoxication and insanity are not treated the same, even though both may lead to incapacity to understand the offence.

Insanity caused by habitual excessive drinking falls under Section 84, not Section 85. The law does not differentiate between insanity caused by drunkenness and other causes.

Insanity, whether from drunkenness or otherwise, is a defence to the crime charged. The correct test is whether the accused, due to drunkenness, was incapable of forming the intention to commit the offence.

A drunken man is presumed to intend the natural consequences of his acts, but this presumption can be rebutted by showing that he did not know his actions were dangerous or was incapable of forming the specific intent required for the crime.

The accused can rebut this presumption by presenting evidence of drunkenness affecting their understanding to form the required intent.

Section 86 states that a voluntarily intoxicated person will be deemed to have the same knowledge as if they were not intoxicated.

However, there is no presumption regarding intention under this section, only knowledge is presumed.

Intent must be determined from the facts and circumstances of each case, considering the level of intoxication. 

Voluntary drunkenness excuses only as regards intention, not for offences requiring mere knowledge.

If an offence necessitates specific intention, voluntary intoxication can be an excuse, but not for offences requiring only knowledge. 

In cases where a specified intention is essential (e.g., theft, robbery), drunkenness is an excuse if the drunkard proves lack of knowledge leading to the required intention. However, it's debated whether actual knowledge can infer intent. 

If a person was completely out of their mind at the time of the offence, fixing them with the requisite intention is not possible.

However, if they had some awareness of events despite intoxication, they can be presumed to intend the natural consequences of their actions. The fact that alcohol influenced their behaviour does not rebut this presumption.


Leading Case Laws


In the case of Basdev, a retired military personnel, and a boy aged 15, Basdev became heavily intoxicated at a wedding but still exhibited some coherence and independence. He shot the boy fatally after an altercation, showing some awareness of his actions. The court ruled that while intoxication may affect intent, Basdev was not so intoxicated as to lack the capacity to form intent.

The court established key points regarding voluntary intoxication:

  • Drunkenness is typically not a defence for crime.

  • If intoxication leads to a lack of understanding akin to insanity, it can be a defence.

  • However, if intoxication falls short of insanity and intent is essential to the crime, evidence must show that the accused was incapable of forming that specific intent.

  • Merely being affected by drink and succumbing to passion does not rebut the presumption of intent.

In Basdev's case, evidence suggested he was aware of his actions, so the law presumed he intended the consequences of his acts. As a result, the offence remained murder.


R. v BROWN  [2022 SCC 18: Supreme Court of Canada]

In R. v Brown, Mr. Brown consumed alcohol and magic mushrooms, resulting in a psychotic state where he attacked a woman. He claimed automatism due to involuntary actions. However, Sec. 33.1 of the Criminal Code prevented his defence. The Supreme Court of Canada deemed Sec. 33.1 unconstitutional, stating it violated Charter rights and principles of fundamental justice.

Automatism excuses involuntary actions, but extreme intoxication akin to automatism is rare and requires a complete loss of willed control over actions. Alcohol alone is unlikely to trigger this state. Parliament can enact new legislation to address extreme intoxication in violent crimes, prioritising victim protection. 

The decision in Brown doesn't provide a free pass for criminals. Extreme intoxication with intent to commit a crime is unlikely to qualify as automatism. Automatism is rarely raised and requires expert evidence. The ruling doesn't prevent Parliament from creating new laws to address self-induced intoxication automatism.

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page